Essential “Penance” during Holy Week

It is a time for religious commemoration, contemplation, seclusion and rituals. Holy Week is synonymous with popular faith, authenticity, tradition and cultural expression. If you do not experience it as a devotee, you can live it culturally. Below we list seven activities and events that are not to be missed during Holy Week:

Prepare a traditional palm bunch during “Palm Sunday”

Tradition tells that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was welcomed with palm fronds as a sign of victory and recognition. In Quito, preparing these palm fronds is part of a traditional trade, carried out in markets and squares, testing the skill of men and women who weave fibers and fronds to decorate the doors of homes, as a sign of blessing.
Rosemary, corn flowers, California Bulrush, ears of wheat and barley, Pampas grass, straw, cypress, and laurel, are branches that are used to build these palm fronds, which have replaced the endemic palm, currently protected.

Threshing grains and helping out with the Fanesca:

Fanesca de Semana Santa

“My nails hurt so much!” By threshing and threshing is how the ingredients to fanesca are prepared. This dish brings together the most tender of grains from the most recent harvest. There are 12 grains in all, duly pealed and threshed, (lentils, white and red beans, peanuts, hominy, tender corn, broad beans, ullucus, lupin beans, peas, rice and chickpeas) which are cooked for hours with squash, pumpkin, milk, and almost always accompanied with dry fish – cod.
There is no single recipe. Each family or restaurant prepares their fanesca with tradition and identity, so let’s get to work and start cooking the most “expected” meal of the year. You’ll see, its flavor justifies the hard work put into preparing it, but above all, cooking it is an adventure that allows us to experience the tradition and wealth of Quiteño Cuisine..

Witnessing the Dragging of Capes (Holy Wednesday):

No other city in the world, aside from Quito, still commemorates the Dragging of Capes on Holy Wednesday. It is an ancient funerary rite of Roman origin, which paid homage to generals who had fallen in battle. In Quito, the rite has been held since 1550, in the city’s main Cathedral, close to the Plaza Grande (Great Square). It is a somber ritual in which bishops, acolytes, canons and other church authorities participate. It has a symbolic load that allows us to approach the rituality of Holy Week from an authentic ceremony, and which transports us to a distant time that no longer exists.

Discovering the “sacred” music:

Music also expresses the feelings of ancient ceremonies and rituals. By tradition, Quito is the perfect setting for over 26 local and foreign musical groups to play this style of music, or religious accompaniment. The ancient tones from the XVIII century sound with greater vigor in the monumental chapels and churches of the Historical District, the South, and the Valleys of Quito.

Seven stops and mourning (Holy Thursday):

The churches are covered with long and heavy damasks or velvets that hide their altars and gods as a sign of devotion and respect during Holy Thursday. On this day, in the Catholic religion, the seven places Jesus walked through on his way to the Calvary are remembered.
This tradition is held in very few cities, and admiring these amazing “textiles”, as well as the rituals of imprisoning or covering religious images, show the courage and tradition of this holy time in this ancient city.

The protagonists of the Jesus of Great Power Procession (Good Friday):

During Good Friday is when the most important event of Holy Week takes place: the Jesus of Great Power procession, which summons over 50,000 faithful who accompany the recreation of the Stations of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Close to 1,000 capirotes and 300 verónicas (women with purple veils) and additional volunteers revive the Calvary by carrying heavy crosses and wearing real crowns of thorns. They all get ready at the convent of San Francisco early in the morning.

Heaven and Hell (Holy Saturday):

In order to verify that everything during Holy Week is not Holy, the devils of Alangasí appear. Alangasí is considered to be a rural parish, which continues to get ever closer to urban areas with the passage of time. There, several dozen devils arrive to bother townspeople with their terrifying masks, bright red garments, pitchforks and capes.
They want to claim the “holy souls”, make noise during days of silence, make war where there is peace. The devout however do not allow this, they are ready with an “arsenal” of Catholic symbols: scapulars, images, bibles, holy water, all kinds of prayers and religious recitations, which they bring.
Devils and devotees find each other in the church of Alangasí, on Holy Saturday, the fight, and thanks to tradition, “good” wins over “evil”...

Heaven and Hell (Holy Saturday):

This hearty dish, which is made once a year, must be tasted in order to realize the abundance of grains and ingredients harvested in this land, year after year. It is a difficult task. We choose the city’s 12 best from several venues and markets that safeguard the tradition of their recipes and preparation. On March 15, the best fanescas will be announced at an event where visitors may taste each one.
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Written and Pictures: Quito Turismo

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